Abstract: Understanding the Experiences of Graduate Students Under the Coronavirus Quarantine. a Case Study to Understand Successful Coping Strategies and Resources (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

482P Understanding the Experiences of Graduate Students Under the Coronavirus Quarantine. a Case Study to Understand Successful Coping Strategies and Resources

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Juan Pablo Sanchez King, M.Sc, Doctoral Student, Boston College, Brighton, MA
Background and Purpose: The pandemic has disrupted life as we know it. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact our lives, it is important to understand the effect of the quarantine on educational contexts. This paper explores graduate students experiences under the corona virus lockdown in the United States, Mexico and Chile. This cross-cultural case study describes experiences, emotional demands, coping mechanisms, and resources; with the aim to identify students successful strategies to reduce stress.

Methods: Twenty online in depth, semi structured interviews were conducted with graduate students from the school of social work. Participants were recruited voluntary through social media and using snow sample technique. The sample is predominantly female (60% female; 40% male), Americans (40% Americans; 20% Asian, 20% Black/African American; 20% Latin-Americans) and middle class. Interviews elicited participants narratives on their experiences, including how participants coped under the quarantine, and their views on resources and strategies to manage stress. Interviews were video recorded, transcribed verbatim and coded thematically, guided by the principles of appraisal stress theory and an inductive approach to qualitative analysis.

Findings: Data analysis reveals that the quarantine led to two bifurcated consequences. In the positive thread students gained perspective and acknowledge the importance of self-care. The quarantine provided ideal conditions for them to focus. This students developed innovative coping practices, and showed to be not only resilient. They were also able to turn themselves into a resource for other students and vulnerable populations. Family, friends, sense of humor and strong cultural values such as social awareness, were relevant coping resources. Technologies also played an important role. Tech savvy students were the first to develop a new habits and structure that enable them to ease. On a negative thread, international students experienced greater uncertainties. The lack of family closeness and support, created additional worries. With mandatory online classes these students had no longer a reason to be living in the US. Suddenly it was more important for them to relocate with their families. Both groups experienced strong disrupted emotions, such as fear and anxiety. Extended periods of confinement were source of emotional exhaustion and stress.

Conclusion and Implications: Findings highlight the importance of social support. For these students social closeness (in physical distancing times) was an effective “stress antidote”. Findings are in alignment with appraisal stress theory, suggesting that a problematic relationship with the environment can be reappraised, in this case through social support. Health policies, and programs that aim to prevent and treat stress and burnout among graduate students should focus on the social environment. Some limitations of the study are the dates of the interviews in relation to the different stages of the evolution of the pandemic. Some interviews were conducted in Spanish, the difference of language structures and appraisal patterns given the cultural diversity of the participants are elements that could be considered limitations for the study.